SUSPENDED doctors and dentists should only be removed from the performers list after a full investigation by their regulatory body, according to proposals from the Department of Health in England.
A consultation is underway into plans to relax regulations that came into force last April requiring NHS England to remove healthcare practitioners who had been suspended by the General Medical Council or General Dental Council. The list removal was carried out even in cases of interim suspensions which regulators say are not intended to punish clinicians.
The DoH has described the 2013 rules as “disproportionate” and is looking to revert back to NHS regulations from 2004. This means NHS England would only be obliged to remove a practitioner who was suspended following a full investigation by their regulatory body.
Interim suspension orders are designed to act as a short term measure to protect the public where a concern has been raised about a clinician’s fitness to practise. They allow time for the facts of a case to be investigated.
The DoH said the current system was unfair because the “imposition of an interim suspension order is a neutral act (i.e. it is not intended to punish)” and that by removing a practitioner from the performers list “NHS England is, in effect, imposing a sanction. This is punitive, requiring the practitioner to reapply for inclusion when the interim suspension order ends.”
The consultation proposes two options.
The first is to revert to the 2004 NHS (Performers List) Regulations meaning doctors and dentists would not automatically be removed from the performers list if they were subject to an interim suspension order by the GMC or GDC. Removal would only happen if the clinician was suspended following a full investigation.
The second would amend the 2013 regulations so that NHS England would have to automatically suspend from the list those practitioners who had received an interim suspension. The DoH believes this would be a more proportionate response than removal. Following a full investigation, the practitioner would then have their list suspension lifted or they would be removed.
Under both options, eligible practitioners could continue to be paid under the Determination while suspended.
The eight-week consultation runs until September 25. A formal response should be published in autumn before being put before Parliament in late autumn.